31st Aug, 2018
Denave, Team, Designation
Consultative selling is more like a development in selling approach, resulted by the advancements in technology. With this, sales enablers are able to understand the needs and pain points of the customer instead of force-selling the products/services to them.
Since a consultative sales process also involves the salesperson to frequently request for customer feedback and thereby utilize the information to raise the right questions at the right time, it safeguards communication and understanding at either end.
It has been quite some time that this approach came into existence so let’s have a deep dive through a set of general questions and explore how consultative selling is evolving in the technological era of marketing and sales and what is the future that lies ahead:
How has the approach of consultative selling come into existence?
‘Consultative Selling’ is the term applied to sales in the late 1970’s by Mack Hanan, which was then revolutionary. It manifested a major evolution from the salesperson as being the transmitter of information and the customers as being the receiver of that message. The focus was to cater the customer’s needs and preferences instead of spotlighting on the product/service demands.
But as every revolution suffers from the dark side so did the consultative selling. In the late 80’s, consultative selling was misinterpreted as a lengthy and laborious process whose major focus was to complete the needs, at the expenditure of closing business.
Nevertheless, the dark cloud did not exist for long as in today’s scenario, salesperson avoids the part on rehearsing the hard-pressing and aggressive sales pitch and focuses on performing as a consultant who attempts to apprehend the customer’s pain point and requirements more effectively.
How has the evolution of consultative selling impacted the Sales Tech Industry?
With the emergence of technology, the evolution of consultative selling has taken a different route altogether. While previous models of selling included data collection via manual interactions, today almost 70% information is collected without any verbal conversation involvement. Technology has indeed advanced the selling concept up to such an extent that consumption of data is now equally being leveraged by sales tech industries.
Also, the time and resource consumption through one-on-one interactions are now being reduced through practices like webinars etc. which are targeted at the prospective CEOs or CIOs.
The evolving trends in Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, IoT, Data Analytics etc. have also left no page unturned in a complete optimization of the sales process. Along with this, the micro-targeting which is resultant of requisite information being captured at the right time, right moment along with the precise need detection, allows minimal time-consuming price negotiations resulting in quick closures.
How has the consultative selling trends advanced so far?
Arriving in the age of consultative selling means now the salespersons are acting more like a management consultant who identifies the problems, develops a relationship with an outlook and leads them to select the service as a solution fit to their needs.
Hence, it is a win-win situation for everybody. While the purchasers devote less time dealing with sales pitches for products they have least interest in, the sales team closes a higher percentage of deals by prioritizing concentration on the leads who requires their solution first.
Let’s have a look at few of the emerging trends in consultative selling:
Social selling instead of endorsing
It is more like seeking for answers to the questions. In today’s era, customers are evolving and thus, they seek recommendations and a complete research before purchasing the products. Hence, salespersons try to create and publish relevant content so as to provide a good deal of information related to the problems the customers might be struggling with.
Therefore, beginning with some social listening or skimming of social platform info of the prospective customers will give insights into what they may be looking for.
And then, once you know the gap area precisely from the horse’s mouth, it is not that tough to package your solution in a way that it does convey being an exact solution for the said problem.
Social listening leading the way to social selling allows you to reach the target masses in a much more focused way without appearing like a hard-seller.
Cultivation of leads instead of formal calling
Pounding upon a prospective customer the moment you get to know that there might be a need, sounds very less fruitful these days. Instead, first assessing the prospect and then researching the gap areas for tailoring the pitch sounds like a better idea and there comes in the team-approach of sales and marketing team.
Let’s say, for example, a salesperson first detects the problems and questions from the prospect and then reports them back to the marketing team so that content generation could be done around the findings of the sales team.
Offering Solutions as an alternative to products/services
Sales personnel now understand the value of their products and services and hence they do not consider to simply push for mere profit earning. Customer needs to feel confident regarding their decision.
Thus, to ensure the selection of your brand over a competitor’s one, it is important to gain the trust of your qualified prospects – which is commenced by offering the right solutions at the right time and putting the customer interest first while making that pitch.
How does the increasing adoption and evolution of Consultative Selling will go hand in hand?
Now that we have read several aspects of Consultative Selling, it must have given you a clearer view of its existence in a complex sales enablement industry. It is a solution, provided by the sales representatives actively applying Seth Godin’s principle of getting products for customers rather than customers for the products.
In short, it acts as a core selling philosophy wherein salespersons depend on the approach that helps the prospects to discover genuine problems, thereby leading them to effective solutions.
Consultative selling is not limited to any specific industry or any specific product because what it looks at is the way selling is done. Like for example, even the traditional telephonic sales (or telesales as we know it) can be processed in a consultative manner.
In today’s scenario, almost 68% of B2B buyers prefer doing business online versus with a salesperson- reason being the shift to the customer-led digital positioned market which is producing a far-reach potential (Remember, the social listening thumb rule!)
Also, the efforts division between various sales profiles and capability of the people have evolved over the course of time with consultative selling coming into picture. Today, sales professionals are way much more beyond being mere data coordinators. With the tech platforms’ help, they can emphasize more on their USP i.e. Human relationship bonding part.
In the coming future, with the advancement of changing sales models, organizations will embrace the technology to a much greater extent hence with this rate of revamping, the Consultative Selling 2.0 may experience further changes- making the process even more dynamic, transparent and quicker.